Health
1:45 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Filling the $30 Million Gap in the Texas Women’s Health Program

Texas Governor Rick Perry has vowed that the Texas Women’s Health Program will continue – but questions persist as to where the state will find the money to do so without Washington.

Gov. Perry has tasked the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to work with state legislators to come up with the 30 million dollars needed to fund the program, which provides cancer screenings, health examinations and contraception to tens of thousands of low-income Texas women.

The funds are needed to replace federal Medicaid money that has been pulled out of the program due to a new Texas law that bars clinics that provide abortions or are affiliated with clinics that provide abortions from receiving funding. The federal funds have been pulled because Washington argues the law – designed to keep Planned Parenthood from participating in the program – is illegal.

Sherri Greenberg is a Professor at UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs. She told KUT News it’s not going to be easy to find the money, given the cuts that were made to the health department in the last legislative session.

The possibilities are either that it comes from within the Health Department, which is what the governor has requested,” said Greenberg. “At this point, the Health Department has said that they’re going to have to see if there’s any areas where spending is lower than they had anticipated, and they’re still looking. The Health Department is not saying that they just have 30 million dollars sitting there – and I’m sure they don’t – to be used for this, given how tight the budget was last time … The Health Department has not stated yet that they have found any funds.”

Greenberg continued, “Another possibility is to go outside of the Health Department and the governor would have to ask the Legislative Budget Board or the Legislature, when it’s in session, to do to that, or get permission to use the Rainy Day Fund. Those would be possibilities outside the Health Department.”

As the search for extra funding got underway, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced a lawsuit against the federal Health and Human Services Department, arguing it was attempting to “commandeer and coerce the states' lawmaking processes into awarding taxpayer subsidies to elective abortion providers.”